Time, cost, and technology are cited as reasons why Gen Y, or Millennials, choose non-traditional healthcare settings, such as urgent care centers, in greater numbers than other age groups
Younger Americans increasingly seek healthcare through non-traditional means, such as urgent care centers and retail health clinics. This trend among Millennials (AKA, Gen Y) to seek healthcare outside of traditional medical settings could present opportunities for clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups that service such providers.
In “For Millennials, a Regular Visit to the Doctor’s Office Is Not a Primary Concern,” the Washington Post (WP) notes that young adults—born between 1981 and 1996—make up the largest generational group in the United States, and that they prefer “convenience, fast service, connectivity, and price transparency.”
The proliferation of retail clinics and urgent care centers demonstrates that those preferences often are not met through a traditional primary care doctor’s office or hospital visit, which Dark Daily has reported on extensively in past years.
“The whole ‘going to the doctor’ phenomenon is something that’s fading away from our generation,” Calvin Brown, a 23-year old graduate of the University of San Diego, told the Washington Post. “It means getting in a car [and] going to a waiting room.”
The WP article is a reposting of a Kaiser Health News article titled, “Spurred by Convenience, Millennials Often Spurn the ‘Family Doctor’ Model.”
To PCP or Not to PCP? That Is the Question
Several polls and surveys in the last few years reveal how young adults are—and are not—choosing to receive care. For example:
- Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) polled 1,200 randomly selected people 18-years and older and found that 26% did not have a primary care provider (PCP). And KFF found clear generational differences: 45% of those between 18 and 29 did not have a PCP. But just 28% of those aged 30 to 49 did not have PCPs. KFF concluded that older adults were more likely to have a PCP.
- The “2017 Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey” conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald and Associates yielded similar results. It found that 33% of people classified as Millennials do not have a primary care doctor, but that only 15% of people aged 50-64 did not have a PCP.
- The “2016 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report” by the Health Care Cost Institute notes that fewer people overall went to primary care offices from 2012 to 2016. Millennials may be discarding the traditional PCP model, but it seems other age groups also are accessing care in non-traditional ways, as well.
- The RAND Corporation reported in “The Evolving Role of Retail Clinics” that “Retail clinics typically serve younger adults who do not have a primary care provider,” among other interesting trends about the steady growth of urgent care centers and care centers located in big box stores and pharmacies.
Convenience, Cost, and Connectivity Matter
There are clear reasons younger adults eschew primary care providers. One frequently cited reason is time. It typically takes days or even weeks to be seen by a PCP. Then, there’s the time spent in the waiting room.
Tara Carter, a 20-something young woman living in the Washington, DC, area told Healthline that going to a PCP isn’t an efficient use of her time, and that a retail-type clinic is “sufficient to get the help I need and get out the door and back in bed—without waiting days for an appointment that didn’t fit my schedule.”
Cost also is a factor. With high-deductible health plans becoming more common, especially among lower-income families, pricing transparency of retail clinics is appealing. Millennials report being more comfortable paying $40-90/visit at an urgent care center, than visiting a PCP and not knowing the cost until the bill arrives.
Technology—and their preference for using it—also contributes to Millennials’ choices in PCPs. Telemedicine, for example, is a popular option with young adults. About 40% of Millennials say telemedicine is an “extremely or very important” option, compared to 27% of those who are classified as Gen X, and just 19% of Baby Boomers, according to Healthcare IT News.
Kaiser Health News notes that, Mott Blair, MD (above), in Wallace, N.C., adopted technologies in his family medical practice to accommodate millennials. “We do far more messaging and interaction through electronic interface,” he told KHN. “I think millennials expect that kind of connectivity.” He also implemented same-day appointments. (Photo copyright: American Academy of Family Physicians.)
What All This Means for Clinical Laboratories
Clinical labs have, traditionally, been aligned with the primary care provider model. And, as Lab Testing Matters notes, “customer service has historically been assessed by how well the laboratory communicated with the medical staff.”
With younger consumers taking a more active role in defining quality in healthcare, the definition of customer service is changing.
There are some things that labs can do to win the business of Millennials:
- Provide patients access to their test results;
- Accept requests from patients for interpretation of those results;
- Allow patients to request tests without orders from a doctor;
- Encourage interaction through patient portals;
- Train lab personnel to communicate with patients;
- Remain aware of the power of social media; and,
- Recognize that millennials value price transparency, including lab test prices.
Price transparency is likely to continue gaining importance, as well as precision medicine. Clinical laboratories are, in many ways, well-positioned to serve Millennials. Establishing clear lines of communication, making it easy to access services, and adopting a wider definition of customer service are the paths forward for those pathology labs aiming to serve younger patients.